As vaccination rates lag in Black and Brown communities across the nation, one local COVID-19 survivor is working to change the statistics.
Jennica Harris tested positive for COVID-19 last April. She told NBC 7 that she had a long and difficult battle with the disease.
“Any time you move, your heart rate skyrockets and you start shaking internally and you can’t breathe. So in my head, I thought, 'Is this it?'” Harris shared, as she remembered one of the times she had to call 911 and get rushed to the hospital. “There were a lot of questions that I had as to why somebody so healthy would get so sick. My body almost failed me, and I didn’t understand why.”
Harris was 32 years old, healthy and active at the time of her diagnosis. Nonetheless, she fought a relentless battle. More than a year later and she’s still living with long-term side effects.
“As soon as I wake up in the morning, I have to take two inhalers because if I don’t I won’t be able to breathe very well during the day,” Harris said. She uses both inhalers twice a day, takes sinus medication and was prescribed heart medication. Harris said she writes herself reminders when to take her medication because she suffers from brain fog and short-term memory loss. She said she is also seeking treatment for stomach and vision issues. Harris told NBC 7 that she’s 85% recovered, but her doctors aren’t sure if she’ll ever overcome the side effects associated with COVID-19.
“I just don’t want people to go through what I’ve been through, or other people who’ve had more severe cases, that’s my goal,” said Harris, which is why she said she wants to help educate and encourage people to get vaccinated, particularly those in the Black and Brown community, like her own family.
“There are numbers that show we are impacted more severely with COVID. You may not die, but you can end up like me and my life has been altered. How long will I take medications for? Will I ever be the old Jennica again?" she said.
Harris said some of her family and friends have been hesitant or skeptical over the vaccine, but she and her husband try sharing their story to remind them what could be.
“My 10-year-old had to help me change my baby’s diapers because I couldn’t move from the couch for several months. My husband was doing everything. He was exhausted and you have to think of all of that too, and I think if you have the opportunity to get vaccinated, do it,” said Harris. Now she’s working to coordinate with community organizations to canvass, setup appointments and/or transportation for people to get vaccinated. “I’m a very strong-willed person and I’m just here to help whoever I can,” said Harris, who was vaccinated in March.
“There was no doubt in my mind that I needed to do this (get vaccinated). I didn’t know how my body would react if I caught COVID again and I wasn’t willing to find out,” shared Harris. “Every shot is a glimpse of hope and we all need hope because 2020 was a hopeless year and were ready to put that behind us and move forward and embrace our family and loved ones, without worry.”